My first steps into the development of robots stemmed from an urge to bring some of my found and made artefacts to life; to inject a personality and character into them. I envisioned an array of robots to help me with my work. These first ideas were very ambitious, and it soon became apparent that I needed to master some basics before I could begin to consider making my army of apprentice assistants.
Working with artist and programmer Mike Blackman, I embarked on my first-born, Bad Bot. His debut performance (Bad Bot’s, not Mike’s) was in a group show called ‘LoveHeart’ at Art Space Portsmouth.
In order to woo his wind-up sweet heart, Bad Bot danced enthusiastically around the gallery floor whilst encircling his target in a giant red heart drawn directly onto the floor. Bad Bot didn’t disgrace himself too much. However, I’m not too sure his companion was terribly impressed, because once he had completed his task he just kept driving into her. It wasn’t a lasting relationship!
Again, in partnership with Mike Blackman, my next robot was Mant Bot. We worked on a project proposal for ‘Boîte-en-Valise’, where the brief was to produce an artwork that could fit inside a suitcase to be transported and exhibited in a gallery in Venice.
Initially, I had the idea of incorporating Bad Bot into the proposal. I imagined he could be taken out of his suitcase, and left to walk round the gallery, drawing on the walls and floor, before returning to his suitcase. Mike had other ideas that would challenge my robot making skills further: to make an Orchid Mantis that would step out of the suitcase and walk around the gallery.
Although challenging, we began to work on a prototype beginning with a single leg. The project was much more technically demanding than we first imagined, and far too time consuming to allow us to make the deadline for this particular project. However, we have continued to develop the idea together and now have two legs up and running… watch this space!